Early last year, Continuum Clinical found itself at a crossroads. The agency’s patient recruitment and retention services branding hadn’t precisely defined what it was hoping to offer and accomplish, so it made a bold choice: to rebrand as a clinical trial enrollment organization.

A year after the change went into effect, Continuum reports that it is starting to pay off. Revenue jumped by almost 8% in 2018, from $23.5 million in 2017 to $25.3 million. “It has enabled a different kind of thinking, which is a little more upstream,” says agency president Neil Weisman.

Continuum’s new branding signals an industrywide shift toward problem-solving and data-driven marketing, Weisman notes. “What a sponsor or pharma company wants is to get the data in so they can understand whether their product is reaching its endpoints or not, and whether they are reaching their overall enrollment objectives.”

Continuum works largely with clinical-development groups, with a focus on drugs that are in the trial stages. The agency’s customers include seven of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies, and “advocacy from the first step” sits atop its list of priorities, Weisman says.  

To help accomplish that goal, Continuum moved its advocacy and diversity and inclusion group into the center of its integrated strategy and planning operation. “It now sits at the heart of the organization,” Weisman says. The agency takes pains to produce work that is passionate and empathetic, especially vis-à-vis patient populations that have been overlooked.

Asked about the categories in which Continuum sees further room for growth, Weisman points to CNS, oncology and women’s health — in which, he notes, advocacy and diversity are particularly important from day one. This makes briefs richer, insights better and the resulting product more effective, he says. The approach has proven particularly effective in strategies around diseases such as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) — which, while related to diabetes, is often misdiagnosed or left undiagnosed.  

Moving forward, Continuum hopes to eradicate silos from the trial mix. Rather than conducting five or 10 trials for a single complex compound, the agency believes that thinking more holistically early in the process can reduce inefficiencies around project management and branding for companies, and thus create better solutions for patients and healthcare professionals.

“Large pharma companies often ask us, ‘How do you provide more value and deliver better results?’” Weisman says. “Bringing more traditional brand architecture to clinical research is one way to do that.”

In terms of bigger-picture issues that could affect Continuum’s business, Weisman is keeping an eye on HIPAA compliance for information exchanged via devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and the rise of 5G connectivity. He believes these and other technologies will prompt significant change — and improvement — in the realms of research, privacy and personal care.

“It’s going to open up so many new opportunities to use AI in a way that’s meaningful for patients,” he says.